I can certainly understand NYU historian Prof. Tony Judt’s pique at Israel. Without being one-sided, as he always is regarding Israel, we would surely agree with him that the West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements policies of succeeding Israeli governments are obstacles to peace and illegal under international law. And he makes an excellent point in his most recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, June 22, that existing settlements are zoned with an outrageous amount of real estate to fill in with additional construction for “natural growth,” so that these new “neighborhoods” are not defined as new settlements.
Still, Judt leaves out a critical fact: that any reasonable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would include a swap of territories, with all or most settlements closest to the pre-1967 border being annexed to Israel in exchange for a comparable amount of Israeli land going to the new Palestinian state. Most peace-oriented parties have advocated this since the mid-1990s, when it was discovered that the most thickly-populated settlement blocs would only require moderate border adjustments (2-3 percent) to be included in Israel.
Moreover, while it’s an embarrassment to me as an American and a progressive Zionist that the US gives as much economic aid as it does to Israel, despite the ongoing expansion of settlements, it is probably not accurate to continually say, as Judt does, that Israel is the number one recipient of US foreign aid. Iraq surely has that honor in spades, and Afghanistan may well join Iraq in this category soon. And when you add the very substantial aid programs to Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and the Palestinians (the latter to the tune of several hundred million a year), US aid dollars to Arab and Islamic countries far outweigh the total provided to Israel.